No Snark Sunday: Luck, The Police

A lot of us this weekend are thinking about Ferguson Missouri which seems to have taken the bad news we typically see coming out of other countries full of foreign people and landed it right in the USA: Uncountable paramilitary police firing rubber bullets on crowds, reporters getting detained and all in the wake of an unjustifiable shooting. Where is this, Uruguay or something? It’s Missouri? What? Didn’t they all seem so nice and polite during the World Series to our typical Boston assholishness? What the hell happened? At least when our Boston cops were running around in camo all jacked with military hardware they were going after actual terrorists. Take a lesson, “Show Me State” (and what the fuck does that even mean?).

Armored police vehicle responding to guy who'd planted actual bombs

Armored police vehicle responding to guy who’d planted actual bombs

I don’t care if the kid in Ferguson did rob a store, you don’t shoot fleeing, unarmed people in the back. Not here, not ever. There is no justification for this, none.

And calling the aftermath a “militarized” response is an insult to our military who know a lot better than to run into a bunch of angry civilians with MRAPS and start pointing the assault rifles with all the nifty tubes on them at everybody. They aren’t acting like soldiers, they are acting like a 9 year old with  Nerf guns.

American cop in our actual country. Note gloves.

Ferguson cop dealing with civilian unrest caused by fellow officer killing an unarmed teenager


No gloves.

A far more responsible rifleman awaits a target

But luckily this is not going down HERE here. We are incredibly lucky to have a police force in Gloucester that is actually a community force. I grew up around cops, cops in Lynn no less. I can tell you that years of dealing with idiot criminals all day can change you. If every interaction you have during your work day is with shirtless dudes who just punched their girlfriend, you start to see the world differently. Your brain starts taking shortcuts- “Guy with no shirt, drinking Monster Energy drink, white hat with flat brim worn at askew angle…hmmm…wonder if he has any warrants?” (spoiler: he does).

In the end, cops are human but it’s all about training and tactics. The military’s primary mission is to fight, the police are here to protect. Once you start crossing the streams it becomes a huge pain in the ass for everyone. Like the Marathon Bombings, there are going to be times when the cops need to go after armed, demented bad guys out to do as much damage as possible. But that is not, repeat NOT what was going on in Ferguson. After the not-at-all-surprising reaction to their own straight-up killing of a guy, the cops there just broke into the toy chest and ramped the whole thing up.

Hey, Ferguson cops: The response to a civilan reaction to police brutality is not A METRIC FUCKTON MORE POLICE BRUTALITY WITH A BUNCH OF SHIT FROM THE HOMELAND SECURITY HOLIDAY CATALOG.

I experienced a far, far more minor version of outsized police response in a nearby town a decade or so ago where I was in a convenience store with my brother, who happens to resemble the average of any given Ramones lineup. The Fuzz-by-the-Sea burst in with guns drawn while we were buying sodas and snak mix because the owner of the store had called 911 to report the counter phone had been suspiciously busy for an hour.

This shit is starting to get  depressing so I'm adding kittens.

This shit is starting to get depressing so I’m adding kittens.

Apparently protocol for that situation in a town where the police notes are heavy with “suspicious van” sightings and the occasional coyote, required bursting into the place with irises the size of tea saucers and pupils the size purely theoretical particles, then sighting down on two random shabby-looking dudes (We’d been working on my house all day) yelling all kinds of cop-orders bullshit like “Show me your hands NOW!” which were already pretty much shown what with the snak mix and the Coke Classic in them preventing me from wielding any kind of weapon more dangerous than whatever the fuck terrible chemicals the ranch dressing powder is made of.

Say your prayers, Copper!

Say your prayers, Copper!

This is what these officers decided the best response to the “busy signal” situation was. Rather than calmly walking in and finding that the somewhat pronounced keister of the behind-the-counter employee had knocked the phone off the hook and thus making it so the owner couldn’t call in, they went with “tactical assault from Bruce Willis movie.” For the record: I am whiter than Al Gore in a sweatervest playing ukulele at a Farmer’s Market, which is probably the only thing that kept them from shooting me dead on the spot.

In Gloucester I can’t imagine that happening. Or if it did, at least we would all laugh about it after the Glocks got holstered, rather than the cops keeping up the massive dickhead attitude like in that town-I-won’t-mention-the-name-of even after we figured out the whole ass thing. Even after the phone got hung back up they continued to aggressively question us, as if this was all part of our supercriminal plot to release an army of robot zombies on their golf course or something. Officer, it was the clerk’s ass. There is no further investigation to be done. You don’t need to see my ID or ask me what my “purpose” here is. That shit is self-evident (see: mix, snak).

In contrast, the police in Gloucester, despite having to deal daily with the problems concurrent with poverty, drugs and alcohol abuse are an actual community police force. Most officers live in town, they know everybody and overall they work to solve problems rather than gin up confrontations. I have only ever had positive interactions with them, even when they were dealing with some messy situations. I’ll tell y’all about my heroin dealer neighbors in Lanesville some other post, but they handled it with respect and care not only to us and themselves, but to the suspects as well. And I have to admit that after living next to these idiots for six months I was ready to see some nightsticking or at least a mild pistol whipping when the bust finally went down. There was none of that. The GPD were a class act all the way.

Side note: the GPD also didn’t wear “tactical gloves” like total tools when busting the drug dealers, unlike the guys responding to the “suspicious busy signal” call. Jesus what assholes those guys were.

There were thousands of illustrations I could have used to make this point. I chose this one.

There were thousands of illustrations I could have used to make this point. I chose this one.

The Ferguson thing is terrifying because it combines about every flash point in our society: Race, inequality, the increasing availability of military-grade hardware, social media and the pervasiveness of video recording surpassing traditional media as an information source. As a Gloucesterite I feel profoundly lucky to live in a place where the vast majority of us feel like we’re in this thing together and the biggest enforcement concern seems to be dog crap on the beach.

As an American, I’m ready to do what it takes to make “unarmed black guy killed” something that stops happening. Like, ever.

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  1. Well stated as usual

  2. Here, here, to being “profoundly lucky to live in a place where”…well…where people in power think about the consequences of their action before wielding it. Hmmm…what do you suppose happens when you bring heavy duty military force into a protesting crowd? Hmmm…what do you suppose is the response to ordering striking employees to return to work or get fired? oh yes…from a company you just destroyed.

  3. Really awesome Jim and the graphics for this are perfect!

  4. Gotta chime in with a thought to conclude NSS… lil’ convenience stores like you mention can be the jumping-off spot for the occasional bad crap that goes on in many towns. I have to stick up for the local PD in MBTS for the otherwise fantastic job they do- sorry about your experience!

    We had a local d-bag go all “Grinch Who Stole Xmas” on us, and not just steal a single bike from the shed like an earlier visit, but pack up the ENTIRE contents one fine midnight. This meant all the bikes PLUS squirt guns, work tools, stroller, etc.- using my daughter’s slashed-up jump rope then carried curbside for pickup. A neighbor heard the banging and dismissed it as me at a late-night project, but called 911 after realizing that I lean towards post-dusk arc-lamps and signal flares over cell-phone-screen illumination.

    Anyhow, “appropriate proportional response” is the key phrase that should apply to most police reactions. This did not mean guns drawn, tactical get ups or up-armored Humvees, but a cruiser and two personal vehicles of the younger officers already off-shift arriving in minutes.

    Their professionalism was great comfort for me, standing by the side of the road wishing I had physical pants on rather than the metaphorical ones around my ankles. Even more so when Mr. D returned nonchalantly to pickup his abandoned backpack after scampering off thru the woods- “dudes, what’s the deal? Just left my bag here earlier on the way from Richdale’s”. Yeah, and I suppose those are all homemade epi pens in there along with the hacked lock whose combo just happens to match my son’s.

    Ironically enough, the capstone on the night was discovering tons of munchies on the individual from previously noted store. Camera footage showed much browsing and loading of pockets, but not surprisingly no closing transaction- final felony count on top of several others. We were glad to have committed professionals helping and EVERYONE WAS SAFE AFTERWARDS, which is not always the case when you visit strangers at night with a big knife in hand.

    A closing thought here, maybe more BTS than elsewhere-
    racial profiling is a horrible thing, but we may be seeing the advent of “retail profiling” instead.

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